In many ways, Niles is as American as apple pie: raised by ultra-protective missionary parents, taught to honor and respect his elders and be an upright Christian citizen. But Niles is also Japanese: reared in the aesthetics of Shinto and educated in the dance halls and backroom poker gatherings of Tokyo's shady underworld. As a gaijin, a foreigner - especially one with a gift for the artful scam - he draws suspicion and disfavor from Japanese police. This potent mixture of stiff tradition and intrigue - not to mention his brazen love affair with a Japanese mistress who would rather kill Harry than lose him - fills Harry's final days in Tokyo with suspense and fear. Who is he really working for? Is he a spy? For America? For the Emperor?
Now, on the eve of Pearl Harbor, Harry himself must decide where his true allegiances lie. Suspenseful, exciting, and replete with the detailed research Martin Cruz Smith is famous for, December 6 is a triumph of imagination, history and storytelling melded into a magnificent whole.
©2002 Titanic Productions, All Rights Reserved; (P)2002 Simon & Schuster Inc., All Rights Reserved; AUDIOWORKS Is an Imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster Inc.
"A superb thriller and a remarkable evocation of a place....A moving, believable love story in which individual lives are invested with great dignity, even in the face of national ideals." (Booklist, Starred Review)
"Martin Cruz Smith is a master of the international thriller." (The New York Times Book Review)
"The pace is like a bullet train, the characters are limned far beyond the usual stereotype, and the locale is as evocative as the cherry blossom itself." (Library Journal)
Martin Cruz Smith has been one of my favorite authors since I discovered his work in the early 90's. His novels are filled with memorable characters, sharp dialogue, and particularly good narrative--Cruz Smith has a real gift for "describing the moment".
I rushed to buy December 6 in hardback the first week it hit stores, and I enjoyed the book thoroughly. I decided to purchase the audiobook because I wanted to revisit the story, and also because I was curious as to how well the novel would translate. Unfortunately, the audiobook has several flaws.
It dispenses with chapter indicators, opting instead for long pauses. This is unnecessarily confusing, given the frequent changes in location / flashbacks that are integral to the plot.
The narrator, John Slattery, does a good job with the "foreign" characters--Harry Niles, Willie Staub, Al DeGeorge--but he inexplicably gives the Japanese characters pseudo-Japanese accents. As just one example, Cruz Smith's "Long Beach Oil" becomes "Rong Beach Oil". Often what was rapier wit on the page becomes caricature to the ear.
This abridged version also makes some puzzling edits. Great chunks of text are cut, only to be referred to later. Towards the end of the audiobook, a character asks: "Remember that song 'Amazing Grace?'" Well, you wouldn't--that part was cut from the audio. Too bad, since a song would seem a perfect opportunity for an audiobook to _improve_ on the original.
I would strongly recommend that people new to Cruz Smith start by reading one of his books, but in the end, enough of the original text shines through. I liked this production, despite its faults, and I suspect other Cruz Smith fans will like it as well.
This book was not at all what I expected. I thought it might be more of a history lesson and peek inside the Japanese mindset that led to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. That was only hinted at in the very end.
Harry Niles, the main character, is not very believable. The story jumps all over and leaves you wondering where it's going. Even in the end, you do not learn what becomes of the primary characters. Maybe it loses something in the abridgement, or it's just not my cup of tea.
I'll get my bias out of the way first -- listening to an abridged audiobook is like getting Filet Mignon at a drive-through window.
Okay, on to the book. Martin Cruz Smith is a genius at getting inside a culture and telling a story that could only have worked in the right setting. I have no way of knowing what 1941 Tokyo was like, but Smith's rendition is totally plausible and unquestionably different than modern US culture. The setting, characters, and culture are all consistent and work together to really pull you into the story.
The story itself is fascinating, believable, and has enough twists to keep it interesting. Small details given casually help set the scene. And, like I mentioned before, it is a story that could only have happened in Japan in 1941. The end might ring false to Americans, but it is perfectly in character and consistent.
I highly recommend this book. The abridgement is quite good, but I would have given the unabridged version 5 stars.
If you enjoy this, I recommend other books by the author: Gorky Park, Polar Star, and Havana Bay are my favorites. Not available on Audible, yet (hint hint :)
I have read all of Cruz Smith's other books and I have been riveted by them. I just couldn't get into this one. I'm not sure if it was the story or the abridgment, but it was very hard to follow. The characters were predictable and two dimensional. I didn't care about any of them. I ended up skipping to the last chapter just to get it over with.
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